Christmas can be a hard time for families. The financial and emotional pressure can sometimes be too much, especially for someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We recently heard about a new book being self-published by a Vietnam veteran Kevin Loyd Thomas and contacted him to find out more about the book and how we can help people with PTSD.
*Tell us a little bit about yourself and your service history?
I had a brutal childhood, one of substantial physical and verbal abuse from my father . I left school at 14, primarily because I wanted to, and secondly to make a financial contribution to my family. We were doing it pretty tough financially. My father constantly drilled into me that I was useless, a good for nothing failure, and I would never amount to anything. A favourite term was a “useless jackanapes.” At 17, I saw myself as a cowering failure, I had no self-confidence, no self worth, no ambition, and I didn’t know where I was going in life. I was just drifting.
One day I saw an advertisement in a bus. The Army wanted new recruits. There was my escape route. I could get away from my father, get a trade, and be independent. My application was successful, and I was over the moon. Freedom at last. One and a half months short of my 18th birthday, in March 1966, I started my military training at Kapooka, outside Wagga Wagga. The Vietnam war was escalating, and Australia had committed a complete task force of three Infantry battalions, and supporting arms. I was posted to the Corps of infantry.
I did two tours of duty in Vietnam, landing there two weeks after my 19thy birthday with A Company, 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), between May 1967, and May 1968. Forward scout, then machine gunner. Bored silly after four months, I volunteered to go back for a second tour. 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit (1 ARU), D Company, 4 RAR, then as a section commander in a second D&E Platoon at Task Force Headquarters. We were only together for six weeks before being disbanded in very controversial circumstances. We saw a lot of combat. Two books have been written about us. Ghost Platoon by Frank Walker, and Anzacs Betrayed by Don Tate. We fought the Australian Government for three years for formal recognition which finally happened in 2008, 39 years to the day after the battle at Thua Tich and its aftermath, which started the whole controversary.
The Army made me. In March 1966, I went in as cowering failure at 17. By November, 1969, at 21, the army had transformed me. From cowering failure to a confident young soldier who had seen combat and had seen the best and the worst of what men could do to one another. I’d lead men into battle. I was self assured, I was happy.
*Tell us a bit about your book and how it will help veterans suffering from PTSD?
The book came about as a result of turning away from suicide in May 2011. It tells the story of what lead up to that near fatal day.
How I went from being happily married and financially independent in 1994, through three years of unemployment, then not being able to hold down a job, to being diagnosed in 2002 with chronic PTSD, with dependence on alcohol, antidepressants, illegal drugs, and tobacco, trashing my marriage, then my life as a result.
It tells what stopped me from driving over an 80 metre cliff into the ocean below, how I took back control of PTSD by asking for help, then how I set about turning my life around, how I developed and implemented specific plans and strategies to be able to do this. It evolved into a 5 step life plan, and the seven key areas of life that affect and influence all of us, what I term the 7 Pillars of Success.
It’s through implementing their own version of the 5 step plan and 7 Pillars is how the book will help veterans suffering with PTSD. It provides a roadmap and blueprint for taking back control of life, then what to do to live the life of their dreams and aspirations, no matter what their current circumstance might be.
Many serving men and women are in denial that they are experiencing difficulty, or are too frightened to ask for help because of the fear of stigma and career threat. For serving men and women, and veterans, by asking for help, and doing so anonymously to avoid the stigma and career threat if still in the military, is how to take charge of life on your own terms.
*What is PTSD? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and how you were diagnosed?
PTSD is a complex and serious disorder affecting many veterans from every conflict. It is a mental health condition, triggered by a terrifying event, causing flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and extreme anxiety.
A frightening work incident sent me into a complete traumatic and mental melt down. It was then I knew I desperately needed help. That help lead to the diagnosis of chronic PTSD.
*What are the key strategies for dealing with PTSD that your book elaborates on?
First, as you read it, when you tell yourself, “that’s me too,” acknowledge that it’s you telling yourself you need to ask for help. Second, ask for help anonymously. Don’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know = no stigma, no career threat. Third, if you are married, or in a relationship, and if you have children, you MUST include them. You’ll get a massive synergistic result. 2+2= 5,6,7 or more. Four, set up your own 5 step life plan, and implement the 7 Pillars, as it suits you and /or your family. Six….Parachute thinking is crucial.
“Your mind is like a parachute – It only works when it’s open”
*What is the achievement are you most proud of to date?
Taking back control of my life, realising I had a story to tell that could stop soldier suicide, getting the book published, and now, giving back, so others don’t have to endure the same path to self destruction.
*How do you find balance?
First and foremost, sailing. Being out on the ocean, out with the wind, the waves, and the elements. Being there is when I’m most at peace. Living a healthy and active life style with purpose and passion. “Parachute thinking.” Knowing I’m making a difference.
*Do you have any mentors or people who inspired you to follow your dream?
My partner, Irene who persuaded me to go to Stuart Zadels “Think and Grow Rich” seminar. Stuart Zadel. Daryl and Andrew Grant( Our Internet Secrets). It was Andrew, a former Army paratrooper, who sowed the seed, telling me I had to tell my story so it could help others. Sandy MacGregor, MC, Anthony Robins, Paul Tracy, Jack Canfield, Sir Richard Branson , Robert Kiyosaki, Darren Stephens, Global Publishing Group who showed me I could write a book, and get published.
*What is inspiring you at the moment?
Reading – anything I can about the brain, the mind and the gut as it directly relates to maximising health and well being for serving men and women, veterans and their families.
Watching – inspiring stories of men and women who’ve overcome adversity, to change their lives, to help others to change theirs.
Learning – Everything I can that will positively impact those I seek to help
*Do you have a message for women over 40?
Absolutely! – Do whatever it takes to set yourself up with multiple streams of income to safeguard your financial future, therefor, you future happiness and security. Generally speaking, women live longer than men. Statistically though, if single, or on their own, they are far less well off and able to live reasonably comfortably in retirement.
*What does the future hold for you?
On a global basis, doing whatever it takes to make a massive difference in the lives of serving men and women, veterans, and most particularly, their families and children. It’s my sole purpose and passion in life.
It’s the family that bears the brunt of the aftermath of a soldiers return from a war zone.
On a global basis, speaking out to governments, the military, veterans support organisations, the general public, and whoever else needs to get the message, loud and clear, that the increasing rate of younger soldier suicide is unacceptable. The increasing level of family breakup is unacceptable, the solutions to fix it are out there, and they can work with me because the book is the platform.
It’s “Parachute thinking.”
“Beat PTSD – How A Combat Soldier Conquered Chronic PTSD To Live A Life That Truly Matters and How You Can Too”, written by veteran author, Kevin Lloyd-Thomas, a “How to/Self-help book”, specifically written for serving men and women, veterans and their families. It truly has a global audience and serves as a beacon of light in the wilderness.